One of the most popular characters in the original Star Wars Expanded Universe canon was also one of the first – Grand Admiral Thrawn. A tactical genius, the blue-skinned, red-eyed alien proved to be a formidable adversary to the burgeoning New Republic in the time following the Fall of the Empire as told in author Timothy Zahn’s trilogy of novels which kicked off with 1991’s Heir To The Empire. And one of the biggest ruckuses kicked up when Lucasfilm decided to set aside the vast amount of books and comics that defined the Expanded Universe in favor of allowing filmmakers freedom to tell their own stories was that Thrawn would be removed from what was considered official canon.
But in a comeback worth of the character himself, Thrawn has managed to make his way back in to continuity through appearances in the current season of the animated Star Wars: Rebels TV series, set in the years before the classic trilogy. Tying into the character’s return will be a new novel from his creator Zahn, that is due out next spring. Zahn spoke about the book at a roundtable discussion of Star Wars authors at the New York Comic Con this past weekend and how excited he was to be bringing the character back.
He started off by mentioning when the book, titled simply Thrawn, takes place in the character’s timeline.
This is a prequel. This is going to show us how he rose through the Imperial ranks to the point where he shows up in Season Three of Star Wars: Rebels. You’ll see the season and then you’ll get to go back and see who he was.
Zahn went on to state that he is not necessarily beholden to what has been written about the character by authors and that he has free reign to do what he wants in terms of exploring Thrawn’s background.
There have been various things written about Thrawn in this era, but nothing I have seen. Mostly in games, and I was told that I don’t have to deal with those. The way I am approaching it is that this is an era T haven’t written Thrawn in, so I am going to take the same character, retrograde him 15 years and write him in this era. I am not trying to make something new, I am trying to look at a new era of his life and career.
For Zahn, the journey to bringing Thrawn into official continuity began last November with a summons to come out to San Francisco to Lucasfilm headquarters. Those who issued the invitation kept mum about what the meeting was about but did state that Rebels executive producer and showrunner Dave Filoni was going to be at the meeting. Zahn described hearing the news that Thrawn would be in Rebels as if a bomb were dropped on him.
It was just nothing I had ever envisioned happening… For ten months it’s kind of been this “This can’t really be happening, can it?” And when I saw Thrawn on the TV set in my own house, “OK, now I guess it is real.”
Although he doesn’t have any say as to the direction that Thrawn will be taking in the Rebels series, he does report that he is comfortable with what Filoni and his writers will be doing with the character.
I do want to say that I’ve seen some of the scripts and for the people who are worried that they’re going to ruin the character – don’t. They’re doing a very good job. I’m excited to see how it all plays out. I’m very excited to see how you all like the new take on the character both in Rebels and the new book. I will be nervous until about May of next year.